Pro-Palestine students rally on campus to ‘end University of York’s complicity in genocide’

Demonstrators are demanding the university refuse research funds and grants from arms companies with ties to Israel

Students rallied on University of York campus yesterday in support for Palestine and to demand the university cut ties with “Israeli apartheid”.

Whilst the University of York announced its divestment from arms companies last month, students and staff are demanding that the institution fully cuts ties with weapon manufacturers in the form of research funds and grants and stands in solidarity with Palestine.

Demonstrators demands included that the university cut ties with the arms trade, support Gaza’s education sector, grant scholarships of Palestinian students, release a statement condemning genocide, and support university alumnus Fadi Hania, who escaped Gaza, to rebuild his life.

The rally began with demonstrators gathering at the front of Heslington Hall, where a Palestine solidarity encampment began yesterday morning, before they moved throughout campus.

One student, Edward* spoke of the persistence of the student body in its effort to have its demands met by the university: “Student resistance will continue until all five demands are met, however long that takes. The encampment will keep going for as long as we can and they will stay there until all five demands are met. We will not whitewash university reputation”

Referring to the protest being planned yesterday on the 76th anniversary of the Nakba, Edward added: “We will not forget that we are witnessing a second Nakba today.”

Students marched through campus, chanting: “Free, free Palestine! From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free. From the sea to the river Palestine will live forever.”

Other chants included: “One, we are the students. Two, we will not be silenced. Three, stop the bombing. Now! Now! Now! Now!”

One student participating in the rally read an original poem to comment on the role of Western Governments in the Israel Palestine conflict.

Emma* recognised the “blood sweat and tears put into months and months of student retaliation”, whilst Omar* said: “Gaza is being bombed due to the uni’s contribution to the zionist regime.”

Edward said: “We are what makes the uni, not senior management. We will not stop because they will not cut ties.”

Speaking about her pride at the turn out of students who participated in the demonstration, Lucy* told The York Tab: “It is nice to see students supporting this and it is nice to feel a sense of community that is normally quite rare at uni.”

Chris Brace, a member of the York Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) addressed the demonstrators and expressed his disbelief of the situation in Gaza. He said: “That you students actually need to be doing this is appalling. Everybody knows what is happening in Gaza but they are finding words to try and avoid the truth. On behalf of the people and community of York and from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign I want to wish you all the best in this struggle.

“This university knows what it’s doing and I am so pleased you are holding it to account and you will be here until it stops doing what it is doing. Join and support the encampment!”

Another veteran from the PSC, Ahmed* also praised protestors and told them of his history at the University of York. He said: “This is a very historic day indeed and it means a lot to someone like who started here as a student in 1975, graduated, became a professor for the university and is now retired. I know what it is like to be a student and to be an academic. It pleases me to see both students and academics on the same page.

“Some may question you and your purpose. Why to you have to risk your careers by having this encampment? Tell them. Tell them this is a continuation of a noble struggle.”

He added: “Shame on everyone who stops people with noble causes like you and questions your morality. Please tell them of the Palestinian students and academics who have lost their lives.” A moment of silence was taken to remember them.

Ahmed continued: “To the people of Palestine, we mourn your dead. You are your sisters and brothers, we are your children, and for your children, we are your fathers and mothers. In our millions and billions, we are all Palestinian.”

Directing his words to students and staff of the University of York who attended the demonstration, he said: “To the students and staff who are in encampment here, as a citizen of York we are all with you we salute you and we are very proud of you.”

Lucas* from the Student Staff Alliance Network which, “has been critical in support of Palestine activism on campus” also spoke at the rally. He told crowds: “It feels good to have your blood pumping and heart beating for a cause that is bigger than you, doesn’t it? This is the spirit of collective solidarity. When all of you could be at home studying, but no. Here you are sacrificing a little bit of your day to demonstrate solidarity to those who are in pain.

“Hear not what the media says when they criticise you. You know you stand in collectivity and solidarity because we are all for Palestine. This encampment is a place of love and solidarity for everyone that is suffering from the consequences of war promoted by the West.”

Closing his speech, Lucas said: “Let’s keep this beacon of light firing up high. Palestine will be free.”

Posting on Instagram, Palsoc wrote: “We call on the University of York to cut all ties with Israeli apartheid. Our coalition continues to grow ! Free Free Palestine”.

The University of York has been approached for comment. 

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